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New Guide Preps Primary Health Care Settings to Integrate Behavioral Health Services

June 08, 2016

Under a newly released guide, primary care practices now have an increased ability to serve patients with behavioral health issues in their primary care facilities.

Behavioral health disorders not only contribute to a lowered quality of life but also increase health costs. However, only about 22% of adults with common behavioral health disorders receive care, and many go undiagnosed. With a large population of these patients undiagnosed, the need for an improving access to and quality of care within primary care settings is increasing.

The guide, called Advancing Integration of Behavioral Health into Primary Care: A Continuum-Based Framework, was published by the United Hospital Fund and sets forth a list of steps that allow practices of many different sizes to work at their own speed, based on their level of resources, to track and make progress towards integrating behavioral health services into their practices.

The eight domains that are tracked for progress include case finding, screening, and referral to care; use of a multi-disciplinary professional team to provide care; ongoing care management; systematic quality improvement; decision support for measurement-based, stepped care; culturally adapted self-management support; information tracking and exchange among providers; and linkages with community/social services.

The overall framework of the new guide for primary care facilities is established in a flow chart to track progress within the eight domains, from beginning to intermediate to advanced stages of behavioral health integration into the primary care setting. The goal of the flow chart is to help practices get a better understanding of the big picture at a glance as well as walk them through the practice transformation and transition.

"Making primary care more robust through the integration of behavioral health services is a key component of health reform, but many primary care providers, especially smaller and medium-sized practices, are struggling without the tools to make this happen," explained Jim Tallon, president of United Hospital Fund, in a press release. Linda Lambert, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians, added, "With so many alternative payment models being developed and the transition to value-based care, many physicians in practice, especially in primary care medicine, are eager for just this kind of guidance."



Chung H, Rostanski N, Glassberg H, Pincus HA. Advancing Integration of Behavioral Health into Primary Care: A Continuum-Based Framework. United Hospital Fund: New York; 2016.


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